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Trusts could fail to reach "critical mass"

The development of the NHS workforce implementation plan needs a change in attitudes and culture if it is to succeed, argues Mike Tresise, workforce expert from NHS Shared Business Services (NHS SBS).

Workforce implementation planWith the publication of an interim national workforce implementation plan expected soon, Baroness Dido Harding has told the Royal College of Physicians that looking at the number of professionals needed for different specialities was "asking the wrong question".  Instead, the NHS needs to combine workforce decisions with operational and financial planning.

Her point echoes that made in a recent HR directors forum, held by NHS SBS.

The forum's theme of 'Tackling workforce challenges in the NHS' galvanised a wide ranging discussion - from the impact of the pension cap on medical staffing through to the importance of technology and automation.

For some time, forward-thinking HR directors have recognised that a regional approach to the provision of shared services results in a 'critical mass' of resources - enabling the right level of investment with the flexibility to support the diverse requirements of the participating trusts.

However, my 15 years of experience working in the NHS suggests that - despite paying lip service to this approach - the biggest challenge is frequently persuading individual trusts to collaborate.

A regional approach with more responsibility devolved to local areas is the ideal approach to tackling workforce challenges, many of which are presenting huge hurdles in the efficient running of hospitals and the delivery of patient care.  However, to be successful it will need to overcome the hurdles of caution, local resistance and (in some cases) a parochial view that "we are different".

The problem isn't insoluble. A formula for success tends to be strong leadership, combined with a compelling model that provides better operational services, all supported by technology that's fully implemented for less cost than individual trusts can achieve on their own.

A key question posed was whether or not improving the leadership culture is critical to addressing workforce challenges. My experience suggests that this is a prerequisite.

The HR Directors that attended our forums clearly demonstrated that forward-thinking leadership exists.  The challenge now is giving these leaders the voice and the power to bring about the changes that are required.

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